In several articles in Psychology and Mind we have talked about the different forms that machismo takes. In the different areas of life (work, family, social…), women have historically suffered a series of palpable discriminations that have relegated the female sex to stereotypes and secondary roles in society.

  • For example, we recommend reading: “Psychology of sexism: 5 sexist ideas that exist today”

Micromachisms: what are they? how do they manifest themselves?

The micromachisms are subtle, often totally unnoticed manifestations of machismo. It is an underground machismo, which does not set off our alarms most of the time.

The hetero-patriarchal system in which we live permeates domestic life, work life and even the way we communicate. In today’s article we have proposed to analyze the main micromachisms suffered by women and some men who do not comply with the heteropatriarchal gender roles.

1. Sexism in language

A classic demonstration of the machismo that is enclosed in our daily language, in our language , could be the preeminence of the masculine gender over the feminine one, among other things.For example, let’s look at a fictional conversation that illustrates this:

– Master, how can I make a word feminine?

– Starting from your male formula, and adding an “a” instead of the original “o”.

– Roger that, master. And the male, how is it formed?

– The masculine is not formed, the masculine exists.

This dialogue was written by Victoria Sau, and it is a good example of the subtle machismo that our everyday language harbours. It is a machismo that does not kill, that is difficult to detect, and therefore is commonly accepted culturally.

2. Gender roles

Micromachisms also come up in the media and in advertising. As we know, the media try to generate an impact on us, trying to sell us certain contents and also certain notions about how we should behave and what we should think.

Recently, the Hipercor chain of hypermarkets committed a coup that revolutionized social networks : it put on sale two baby T-shirts, one in blue and one in pink. In the blue one, you could read: “Smart like daddy”, and in the pink one, “Pretty like mommy”.

The case jumped to the media and Hipercor had to withdraw those articles, since it offended not only the feminist collective but any person with common sense. It was a micromachismo that fortunately was not culturally tolerated, and that placed women within the aesthetic stereotype.

Without leaving the present day, it was also a scandal when El Corte Inglés offered a product in its facilities marked as “special for them”, a pack consisting of a broom and a dustpan. The same chain sold vacuum cleaners under the slogan: “Mom, you’re the best” . As if the vacuum cleaners were products designed exclusively for women.

More examples of micromachisms related to gender roles: in the vast majority of public toilets, the place for changing babies is located in the women’s bathroom . Perhaps we can assume that this is a trend that is not of great importance, but the truth is that this is precisely a micromachismo: a role that we have assumed culturally as natural, unquestionable. But have we stopped to think about it? These gender stereotypes are capable of persisting generation after generation precisely because of the naturalness with which we experience them.

3. Hypersexualization

Another blatant case of sexism occurred when Carrefour released a swimsuit for girls aged ten to fourteen with padding on the bra side. It is hard to imagine that they could have tried to sell swimsuits with padding for boys.

Not to mention the number of times advertising uses female bodies to sell anything: cologne, alcohol, video games, clothes… The female body is more frequently hypersexualized and used as a lure for big brands in relation to the male body.

One micro-machineism that is starting to set off our alarms (and it’s about time) is the fact that women are being used as sex appeal to attract audiences to discos. There have been cases of this, which fortunately have outraged a large part of the population, leading to several campaigns being withdrawn and their authors apologising.

4. Use of public space

Machismo does not only affect how we use language, how we sell certain products or how we place each gender within certain roles and stereotypes. Many women also warn that the use of public space contains certain sexism .

For example, it is often discussed openly in forums about the tendency of men to sit with their legs wide open in public seats , for example in the subway, preventing people sitting next to them from being minimally comfortable, and seeing their space invaded. This may be a matter of debate, since it is not clear that it is only men who sit invading other people’s space, and if this is the case, it could be due to certain anatomical characteristics of men. Well, the tendency could be explained, simply, by a question of bad education.It is difficult to clarify.

In any case, it is possible that this type of phenomenon occurs, in which women are undervalued and little taken into account in the public arena. Of course, the constant harassment suffered by women when they walk in the street, the compliments and other behaviour which, in my opinion, constitutes clear sexism and, fortunately, is increasingly recognised and repudiated by society, would not fall into the category of micromachismo .

Where does the concept of ‘micromachismo’ come from?

The history of the term micromachismo dates back to 1990, when the Argentine psychologist Luis Bonino used it to define “those male behaviors that superimpose the authority of men over that of women. In this sense, Bonino points out that micromachisms “are daily tyrannies, a type of soft and invisible violence, of low intensity”, that cover reality in an imperceptible way and that travel parallel to the patriarchal logic of our society.

Precisely is the ease with which these micro-machisms are camouflaged where their danger lies , because it generates invisible damage to the female sex and to all those who do not adapt to the gender role that has been socially assigned to them. In the case of women, this role is usually that of caregivers, weak, submissive, secondary

Another way of classifying micro-machisms

Luis Bonino and other psychologists have proposed another criterion to classify these day-to-day machismoes:

1. Utilities

They are used in the domestic sphere and refers to the fact that men tend to make women responsible for care and domestic tasks . They usually do it appealing to their “greater capacity” to iron, wash, care for the elderly or cook.

This may seem like clear machismo, not micromachismo, but it can happen in very subtle ways, such as the husband saying to his wife, “Wait, I’ll help you hang out the clothes” or “I love your cooking, I’d rather you did it because you do it so well”

2. Subtleties with a male bias

These are particularly subtle micromachisms, which aim to impose the sexist ideology and to underestimate the role of women in society (whether in the field of work, in relationships, at work…).

It’s the macho subtleties of silence, using paternalistic communication, or ignoring a woman disparagingly because she’s a woman. So is using a denigrating mood towards the female gender.

  • Related article: “Women are undervalued at work (and we find it normal)”

3. Coercive

In this type of micro-machinery, the man exerts moral, psychological or economic pressure to impose his power on that of the woman .

They can be observed when the man sits on the best armchair in the living room, controls the TV remote control or occupies a larger space in public places (such as the subway, as mentioned above).